The Ways of Love©

They walk through the doors each day, each one with a story.  Some come in with a smile, some come struggling with pain that won’t seem to go away, others carry the smell of their addiction on their clothes.  They love her they say.  She takes the time to listen to their aches and pains.  She cares what happens to them.  She wants them to feel better.  She tends to their needs and they know it.  Each are patients of my dear doctor.

One of my favorites was a couple…. of men.  Yes, they were gay.  They loved unlike many. Each time they walked into the office with kindness on their lips. One of them died, recently.  My heart is moved with compassion.  Years ago it would not have been this way.  I would have seen their sinful choices, secretly judging them in my heart.  But my heart has changed.  My religious ways are falling off of me.   I have come to see them for what they are… men God deeply loves.

It’s interesting for me to think about it all sometimes.  These two men who have loved each other well are often condemned by the very people who are inhabited by the God who is love.  Something must be amiss in this theology.  Somehow Jesus looked beyond the sin and saw us as we were…  It wasn’t about the sin, it was about the one created in His image.  Jesus had an uncanny way of looking past the sin to see me, and you.

Every day I am given the opportunity.  Every day the invitation lies before me.  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  Some are easy, some are hard.   But it all comes back to this.

When I was covered in sin He loved me.  He didn’t condemn me for my life choices.  He loved me in spite of them.  In the beginning, before time began, God created the heavens and the earth because of love.

The more the complexities of religion fall away from me the more simplistic it all becomes.

I would not have seen myself ever getting to this place years ago.  My Bible lies on the shelf untouched many days.  The words play through my mind from my years of study.  I haven’t turned my back on it.  It’s not that.  It’s the way that God has had with me.  He’s pulled me back to the bare bones of living before there were words on a page rich with truth.  “Walk in the moments, listen to the Spirit inside, love as He has loved,” He tells me.

In this process I find myself discovering things hidden in the depths of my soul.

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, if I have a faith that can move mountains, if I give all I possess to the poor; if I give over my body to hardship yet I do not have love.  It is all for naught.  I gain nothing”…. absolutely nothing.

Something is happening in my core as I sit in the walls of that office.  I see the transformation that love is bringing to my life.  The woman who once focused on a person’s sin choices, quietly judging them in her heart, is disappearing.  Love is finding its home in me.

Before you could love me God says, I loved you.  Before I did anything, before I understood anything He loved me.  Years of performance and striving had kept me on the treadmill of self-righteousness.  I couldn’t find my way into the doorway of acceptance until I let go of the ruler.  If God wasn’t keeping a tab neither could I.   Something changed inside me the day I took Him at face value.  I was catapulted into a place I never knew existed.  I found His love.

Sick and broken people walk into the doctor’s office each week.  Every one of them walking out their journey.  A woman known for her abruptness rubs me the wrong way.  I know her story though.  She’s hurting deep within her bones as her body gives way to MS. It helps to know, yet I am still challenged to stay kind when she walks up to my window with an attitude. I am stretched at my core when she starts with her demands.  A soft answer turns away wrath.   Will I love?  It is the question you know.

As the layers are peeled away I find the simplicity of it all.

All we really need is love…

“Love one another as I have loved you”…

©copyrighted:  2012; Julie L. Todd

Greater Things ©

It’s been a long time since I’ve been here to write on this blog. I would imagine everyone has packed up and moved on by now.  My heart’s been yearning to make some sense of what’s been transpiring in this season of life.   Yet, there have been no words.

To say that life has been turned upside down is an understatement.  There has been more going on in this last year than meets the eye.  It’s as if there is no stone being left unturned in my marriage, my life.  Things that have been hidden down deep for years have suddenly made their way up and out.

Like never before I’ve been challenged at the core of my faith.  The words have slipped out of my mouth more than once.  “Where were you?”  “Where have you been?”  “Why didn’t you come when I called you?”

A few days back I found myself in the pages of John as the familiar story took on a different light in a moment’s time.  I saw her like I had never seen her before.  I saw that in the pain of her circumstances much like me, she had been challenged too.

Weeks before she had poured expensive perfume on the feet of the one she loved.  As men stood by questioning her exravagance she knew it didn’t matter.  She spilled herself out freely.  She wiped His feet with her hair.  She risked everything to love.  At the core of her being she would follow Him anywhere, do anything.

That moment of sacrifice must have seemed like an eternity ago as she faced her current circumstances.  The question must have echoed through her heart.  Why didn’t He come when she needed Him the most?  I saw it woven into the words before me.

Lazarus had gotten sick.  She sent for Jesus to come and heal him.  She knew of His power.  He had stayed in her home.  He had eaten at her table.  He had healed those who came.  Surely He would come quickly to touch one so dear to His heart.   She sent for Him… But He didn’t come..

Jesus did not come until it was too late.

Lazarus died.

After it was all over He showed up on the road to their house.  Martha went out to meet Him.  Mary stayed home.  She did not go out to meet Him.  She stayed home.

You can see a lot in a story if you look, especially if your world has you ripe and ready.

I was.

Jesus asked Martha to get Mary.  It was then she got up and left the house to go and meet Him.  Her words spoke the story of her moments.  “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  I saw it, suddenly, for the first time.  She was asking Him what I had asked.  “Why didn’t you come?”  “Where were you?”

He saw her weeping. He groaned.  He ached.  He wept too.  People said it was because Jesus loved Lazarus so much.  They believed it was His grief for a life lost.  How could that be I wondered.  After all Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus.  It is why He tarried.  He knew that Lazarus had to die in order for the greater thing to be revealed.

He couldn’t have wept for the loss of Lazarus.  He must have wept for the struggle He saw in Mary.

He called for the stone to be removed.   “Lazarus come forth,” He announced.  It was then the eyes of understanding were opened to her.  There was purpose in His delay.  He had been right where she needed Him to be.  He knew the greater thing she did not.

Greater things await….

Surely He has groaned for me too. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow after all.  As it was for Mary it must surely be for me. As the tears have rolled down my face, while groans escaped my lips surely has He wept too.

It’s in the middle of the storm when the clouds part just a little allowing the sun to peek its way through that hope creeps in.

I’m in that in between place.  I do not yet see the greater thing.  In those sacred moments, Mary’s life testified thousands of years later.  I became kindred to her in a way I had not known.  For her story reminds me that there are greater things I know not of.

It is the way of the God of the ages.

©copyrighted:  2012; julie l. todd